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Japanese are believed to have the highest population to wear face mask, even before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world. Why do they wear masks just like one of their everyday accessories? Here are some of my observations and Best 3 brands of medical masks made in Japan.

Why do Japanese Wear Face Masks?

Japanese face mask

It is not uncommon to find Japanese wearing face masks for hygienic purpose.

Japanese face mask has a big local market even before the COVID-19 pandemic exist. It does not imply Japanese are more vulnerable to diseases or they would got sick easily, but it is about their heartfelt consideration to others. Before the coronavirus outbreak, you may feel surprised by how many Japanese people are wearing medical masks on busy streets in Tokyo or Osaka, especially in months from late January to April. It is because quite a lot of Japanese are allergic to pollens, which is also known as Hay Fever in Japan.

After WWII, Japan reforest huge amount of cypress trees or Cryptomeria as a resource for construction and rebuilding Japan. But since 1980s it was more convenient and cheap to import wood from other countries. Lots of pollens producing cypress trees or Cryptomeria are producing pollens during spring seasons across Japan, making Hay Fever a common thing since the Millennium. Japanese deploy surgical face mask to avoid direct contact with the pollens and everyone is accustomed to wearing masks since then.

From an episode of the Netflix’s latest series of Queer Eye filmed in Japan, famous and most-followed Japanese comedian Naomi Watanabe explained 6 reasons why Japanese wear a face mask.

1. Allergic to Pollens (Hay Fever)
2. They are sick
3. They don’t want to be sick
4. They are famous and want to hide
5. They want to stay warm
6. They have a bad breath (Joking)

Japanese face masks

Why Japanese wear face masks, explained by Naomi Watanabe. (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

Best 3 Brands of Japanese Face Mask in Japan Drug Store

It used to be very easy to buy face masks in Japan. Just pop by any drug store (kusuriya) or convenient store on every main shopping street and you could find boxes and piles of face masks. But it was not true since the pandemic blasted in Japan. It has become difficult to buy face masks in store or even online due to huge demand after the coronavirus outbreak.

If you travel to Japan later, please pick these 3 brands of Japanese face mask. They are all my favourite choice for self protection from coronavirus or even common flu.

A good face mask for protection means it can protect you from pollens, bacteria and virus, easy to breath and comfortable to wear. You can take note of the protective power by checking these 3 standardisations:

BFE – Bacterial Filtration Efficiency
PFE – Particulate Filtration Efficiency
VFE – Viral Filtration Efficiency

The above 3 standardisation are usually shown in percentage. The higher the percentage the better the protection. 99% BFE means the mask can filter 99% 3nm size particles, the average size of pollens. 99% VFE means it could filter out 99% 0.1-5nm size particles, including most virus. And here are the 3 brands that has good quality control and high protective standards:

1. Unicharm Cho-kaiteki Mask (超快適)

2. Kowa Three Dimensional Surgical Face Mask (三次元)

3. Unicharm Super 3D Mask (超立體)


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